A fundamental aspect of mitochondria is that they possess DNA and protein translation machinery. Mitochondrial DNA encodes 22 tRNAs that translate mitochondrial mRNAs to 13 polypeptides of respiratory complexes. Various chemical modifications have been identified in mitochondrial tRNAs via complex enzymatic processes. A growing body of evidence has demonstrated that these modifications are essential for translation by regulating tRNA stability, structure and mRNA binding, and can be dynamically regulated by the metabolic environment. Importantly, the hypomodification of mitochondrial tRNA due to pathogenic mutations in mitochondrial tRNA genes or nuclear genes encoding modifying enzymes can result in life-threatening mitochondrial diseases in humans. Thus, the mitochondrial tRNA modification is a fundamental mechanism underlying the tight regulation of mitochondrial translation and is essential for life. In this review, we focus on recent findings on the physiological roles of 5-taurinomethyl modification (herein referred as taurine modification) in mitochondrial tRNAs. We summarize the findings in human patients and animal models with a deficiency of taurine modifications and provide pathogenic links to mitochondrial diseases. We anticipate that this review will help understand the complexity of mitochondrial biology and disease.
Keywords: MELAS; MERFF; Mitochondrial disease; tRNA modification; taurine.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Japanese Biochemical Society. All rights reserved.